RH

A conversation with Robyn Hitchcock can at times feel a lot his lyrics; just when things seem grounded, the skies open up and we’re off in the clouds for a whimsical journey. A very affable fellow, there’s great humor spiced through his words, often moving quickly between the visceral and surreal. Following a conversation this past month in San Francisco, we caught up with Hitchcock to chat about his career, living in Nashville, and his excellent new self-titled album.

Aquarium Drunkard: At the show last month you mentioned how happy you are with the new record. What aspects pleased you with this one?

Robyn Hitchcock: Just everything worked at once. It was just a series of really good coincidences. I got a very good crop of songs. Brendan Benson, we’d been talking for a year or two about doing something. It turned out something meant producing a record.

AD: What all did he bring to the table as far as his production?

Robyn Hitchcock: He brought a few things. He brought, or helped bring, some of the musicians that I recorded with. The bass is Jon Estes and the drummer Jon Radford. And his studio. It was quite a collaborative venture. He’d look at the songs and make suggestions, sometimes for the structure. He’d suggest chord changes which I then wouldn’t use…you know, he’s another musician and songwriter. He’s my partner so he kind of stood up to me. Especially as you get older you can kind of call all the shots, and if you do that you never really surprise yourself. But I wasn’t passive either, I wasn’t the passenger. It wasn’t like ‘okay Brendan, bend me and shape me any way you want’. It was much more. Me and the guys would sort of work out moving parts, and the structure. The structures are pretty much mine, but a lot of the sort of mechanics of it were worked out. In regards to bass and drums, it was all looked at. It wasn’t like, ‘okay Robyn’s got the chords, we’ll just back along.’ Which is how it sometimes goes, because I like getting new musicians when they’re fresh and haven’t too much time to live with the song. But these people lived with the songs almost instantly. They’re really kind of tuned up. The record sounds like we’ve been playing together for years, but actually a lot of the players had only just heard the songs that evening.

Robyn Hitchcock :: Mad Shelley’s Letterbox

outro

Earlier this year Netherlands-based reissue outfit Music From Memory released the wonderful and exquisitely strange compilation, Outro Tempo: Electronic And Contemporary Music From Brazil 1978-1992. A collection of exotic, otherworldly futurism and electronics, born from the most poignant of circumstances, the assemblage finds traditions and soundscapes blending into a new form. Via the label:

“As Brazil faced the last years of its military dictatorship and transition to democracy, a generation of forward-thinking musicians developed an alternative vision of Brazilian music and culture. They embraced traditionally shunned electronic production methods and infused their music with elements of ambient, jazz-fusion, and minimalism. At the same time they referenced the musical forms and spirituality of indigenous tribes from the Amazon. The music they produced was a complex and mesmerizing tapestry that vividly evoked Brazilian landscapes and simultaneously reached out to the world beyond its borders.”

Priscilla Ermel _– Tai Chi - Gestos De EquilíbrioThis alternative vision not only fuses jazz, ambient music, and minimalism with indigenous roots, but also naturally evokes the spirit of Tropicália, a fertile movement of its own, and one whose oceanic guitar meditations find themselves awash in synthesizer and chant in the back half of Nando Carneiro’s grandly sweeping “G.R.E.S. Luxo Artesanal / O Camponês.” It’s an intoxicating moment — imagine Bola Sete merged with Caetano Veloso. The art-pop approach toward the traditionally more vocal focused performances can be found in gorgeous fashion in the album’s closing track by Luli E Lucina. And further treasures abound, amongst them the industrial no-wave opera that is Cinema, and their track “Sem Teto,” the Eastern-leaning dub-pop of Os Mulheres Negras’ “Só Quero Um Xodó,” and the patiently rewarding, avant-garde reflections of Marco Bosco’s “Sol Da Manhã.” As a whole the collection an embarrassment of riches — from the rainforest percussiveness of Fernando Falcão and the misty Blade Runner atmospherics of Anno Luz, to the free-jazz stylings of Bené Fonteles and the pure vocal mastery of Andréa Daltro.

Fearless and bold, Outro Tempo truly offers sounds unlike any heard elsewhere. It’s escapism born out of a difficult history, but one that offers an intrinsically positive emotional spirit.  words / c depasquale

Priscilla Ermel :: Gestos De Equilíbrio

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Sarah Louise Henson’s dazzling 2016 LP on VDSQ was one of the year’s best examples of the ever-expanding 21st century guitar soli scene. She’s followed it up this year with a similarly fantastic but quite different project with Sally Anne Morgan of the Black Twig Pickers. House and Land’s self-titled debut sees the duo traveling deep into Appalachian folk territory — territory that’s been explored by countless musicians in previous years. But Henson and Morgan manage to make these time-worn tunes and tales sound absolutely fresh and alive, lifting the veil on the centuries and uncovering an often devastating emotional core. It’s a testament to their skill and imagination as interpreters as well as the sturdy musical structures that they’re building upon. The minimalist drones and striking harmonies provide a sharply drawn backdrop for age-old lyrics that, in House and Land’s hands, sound hauntingly up-to-date and modern. Step inside this House … words / t wilcox

Pop Makossa

Makossa, the infectious dance music of Cameroon, blended beautifully with funk, disco and pop in the late 70s and early 80s — and the Analog Africa label has gathered together some of the period’s amazing highlights in this recommended compilation. Put together by deep crate digger and Analog Africa founder Samy Ben Redjeb and DJ and music producer Déni Shain, Pop Makossa – The Invasive Dance Beat of Cameroon 1976-1984, is a joy from start to finish. The tracks here show just how versatile the Makossa beat is, with the musicians finding inventive and delicious ways to incorporate it into an array of genres. Elements of high life, Afro-beat, merengue and more all mix and mingle happily. There’s not a dud to be found, but if you had to single out just one tune from Pop Makossa, it’d have to be teenage prodigy Bill Loko’s unstoppable “Nen Lambo” from 1980 — if this one doesn’t get you moving, there might be something wrong. words / t wilcox

McVie

Enter the Besnard Lakes cover of the Mac classic “You Make Loving Fun”. Back in January of 2013, UK magazine MOJO included a companion disc of Fleetwood Mac covers entitled, Rumours Revisited: A Tribute to Fleetwood Mac’s Classic 1977 Album. It features the group’s trademark guitar wash and wall-of-sound vocal chorus, giving the original an even dreamier and more seductive feel. Drummer Kevin Laing handled the vocal duties, and his falsetto is perfect as the group exhales into a massive wall of sound. For a band that has garnered actual Fleetwood Mac comparisons throughout their career this tribute is the ultimate compliment. words / s mcdonald

The Besnard Lakes :: You Make Loving Fun (Fleetwood Mac)

Aquarium_Drunkard_SIRIUS

Our weekly two hour show on SIRIUS/XMU, channel 35, can be heard twice every Friday – Noon EST with an encore broadcast at Midnight EST.

SIRIUS 487: Jean Michel Bernard – Générique Stephane ++ Omni – Afterlife ++ Medium Medium – Hungry, So Angry ++ Talking Heads – Seen And Not Seen ++ Vivienne Goldman – Private Armies Dub ++ Maximum Joy – Let It Take You There ++ Atlas Sound – Recent Bedroom ++ Brian Eno – No One Receiving ++ Cave – Arrow’s Myth ++ Fela Kuti – This Is Sad ++ Johnny Rotton/Sid Vicious interview ++ Steel Leg – Unlikely Pub ++ Serge Gainsbourg – Javanaise Remake ++ Brentford All Stars – Greedy G ++ Françoise Hardy – Je N’Attends Plus Personne ++ The New Creation – Countdown To Revolution (excerpt) ++ Bob Desper – The World Is Crying For Love ++ Re-Creation – Music ++ John Scoggins – For You ++ Wilco – More ++ CAN – Halleluwah (AD Edit) ++ Träd, Gräs och Stenar – Pengar (Money) ++ Ryo Kagawa – Zeni No Kouryouryoku Ni Tsuite ++ Robert Wyatt – Yolanda ++ Hailu Mergia – Shilela ++ Marianne Faithfull – Broken English ++ Bongos Ikwue – All Night Long ++ New Age Steppers – Eugenic Device (AD edit) ++ Makers – Don’t Challenge Me ++ Spike – Kanti Dadum ++ The Fall – Middle Mass ++ Wire – Pink Flag ++ The Mad’s – Aouh Aouh ++ Gold Star – State Trooper (Aquarium Drunkard Session)

*You can listen, for free, online with the SIRIUS three day trial — just submit an email address and they will send you a password.

mindtrain

In the liner notes of 1971’s Fly, Yoko Ono included a special note about Fluxus instrument maker Joe Jones: “I was always fascinated by the idea of making special instruments for special emotions — instruments that lead us to emotions arrived by their own motives rather than by our control.”

That idea, of implement informing expression, hovers over the three albums comprising Secretly Canadian and Chimera Music’s second wave of Ono reissues: Fly, and 1973’s Approximately Infinite Universe and Feeling the Space. Like the first entries in the reissue campaign, Two Virgins, Life With the Lions, and Plastic Ono Band, these records help place Ono’s pioneering music in proper context, but even more so than those recordings, this trio finds Ono and assembled players utilizing more or less traditional song forms. With these familiar sonic “tools” in hand, Ono created some of her most accessible work, exploring themes of feminism, wounded love, loss, and humanism via aggressive spiritual creation.

Often, the songs feel wonderfully out of control — prepare to hear Eric Clapton, serving as a sideman, playing as far out as he ever went. But the structures — or lack of structures — nonetheless left ample room for Ono’s poignant lyrics. All three albums are filled with songs that beg for annotation, especially the bruised “What a Bastard The World Is,” which explores the division of the sexes through a lens of romantic tension, and the anthemic basher “Woman Power.” But my favorite? That would be “Mind Train,” the epic 16-minute plus jam that closes side one of Fly. It practically rumbles off the turntable, a wild blues/avant-garde/rockabilly rave that radiates frenetic joy. The band, including John Lennon on guitar, Klaus Voorman on bass, Jim Keltner on drums, and Chris Osborne on dobro, absolutely crank, trying feverishly to keep up with Ono’s impressionistic spirit. “Dub-dub, train passed through my mind,” Ono sings wildly, imagining both the train from the outside and within: “33 windows shining through my mind.”

Even if the railways have proven of thematic interest to everyone from Elvis to Kraftwerk, from Johnny Cash to the Dead, few have so directly translated the motorik forward movement on the rails like this, internalizing the chug to illustrate a mind racing with new ideas. Barreling ahead over Keltner and Voormann’s locked boogie, Ono pulls from the darkest corners of her psyche, mouthing “I thought about killing that man,” before settling into a series of wordless howls. Paired with Osborne’s slippery melodies, Ono’s voice suggests the midnight whistle of a locomotive passing by. By deconstructing and reassembling minimal rock & roll roots, Ono achieves same effect she sought from Brown’s experimental instruments: the song serves as a vehicle for “the emotions and vibrations” Ono wished to explore. words/j woodbury